TPPA Bulletin #93

February 2017



The TPPA is dead - what next?
The United States has now formally pulled out the TPPA, killing the agreement.

The TPPA as we know it might be dead, but the ideas it was based on and the powerful interests behind them are not.  There is no doubt that threats similar to the TPPA will emerge in the coming months and years.

Petition against a Zombie TPPA 
On 14-15 March 2017 the New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay is meeting with the remaining TPPA countries in an attempt to revive the agreement.

It’s Our Future and our friends at Action Station have prepared petition telling Minister McClay that we don’t want any sort of zombie TPPA.  Please add your name here and share widely.  

More information on the upcoming Chile ministerial meeting the risks of a zombie TPPA are set out later on in this bulletin.

Contents of this Bulletin
Now that the TPPA has fallen apart their are a number of possibilites about how the TPPA governments and the corporate lobbyists that back them will reorganise themselves.  There is also an important question about how China — the United States’ main rival for influence in the Asia-Pacific region — will respond to the death of the agreement.

There has been a lot going on in the last couple months, on many different fronts.  So you don’t have to wade through all of it if you don’t have the time, here’s a quick list of the topics covered:
  1. The possibility of some sort of zombie TPPA going ahead without the United States and why this is a bad idea;
  2. Donald Trump’s hint at a one-on-one trade agreement with New Zealand;
  3. New negotiations for an expanded agreement with China;
  4. An introduction and update on both the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (or “RCEP”, a set of trade negotiations led by China);
  5. An introduction and update on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA); and — most importantly —
  6. What you can do to stop our Government getting New Zealand tangled-up in another mess like the TPPA.
TPPA without the United States?
There is talk from the remaining TPPA countries about continuing with the agreement without the United States, particularly from Australia.  The New Prime Minister, Bill English, has also indicated that he would like to pursue this possibility, first in a press conference and more recently in a prepared statement following a meeting with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Trade Ministers from all the TPPA countries except the United States are due to attend a meeting in Chile on 14-15 March 2017 in an attempt to resusitate some, or all, of the TPPA.
It’s concerning that the New Zealand government still hasn’t got the message that the TPPA was a bad idea and that New Zealanders don’t want it.  Without the United States, the TPPA is an even worse idea.

The  whole point of the TPPA for New Zealand, according to its backers,  was to gain access to heavily protected US markets.  The motivation of the United States, on the other hand, was to freeze or rewrite the rules of New Zealand and the other TPPA countries to better suit the interests of its corporations.

New Zealand got a bad deal in the TPPA.  The economic benefits that we would potentially have gained were marginal, and the costs to the New Zealand public and our natural environment would have been enormous. 

It makes no sense for the National-led government to now consider chaining New Zealand to a set of rules written to meet the needs of corporate America without gaining anything in return.
As Professor Kelsey has written (also well-reported on RNZ):

The economic modelling the government relied on to sell the TPPA last year had zero credibility and failed to account for the costs. Take the US out of that equation and any attempt to pitch the agreement as having net benefits to New Zealand is risible.

Similarly, former IOF co-ordinator, and current Green Party MP Barry Coates has also put it well in a recent blog post:

Most of the very small economic gains to New Zealand from the TPPA were going to come from trade with the USA, and these benefits were offset by the economic costs of the deal. The economics were never worth the risks of being sued by multinationals, the loss of government powers to regulate business, the threats to the environment and human rights, and the loss of our sovereignty. A TPPA without the USA makes even less sense. 

The TPPA contains rules that are specifically there because the USA insisted on them. For example, new rules on issues like patents and copyright are not good for New Zealand, but we were told we’d have to accept them as the cost of getting greater access to American markets for our agricultural exports. Without the USA on board, we face all the costs of these patent and copyright rules, but none of the supposed benefits we were supposed to get in return. 

Much of the TPPA text was drawn from the US template. Updating it for a new deal without the USA would be in the interests of the US, but not in our interests. We’d be better off starting from scratch and developing a new type of fair and sustainable trade agreement.


Finally, even conservative commentator Patrick Smellie has written a scathing opinion piece (entitled “Enough already on the TPPA”) on Stuff.co.nz where  he rightly asks:

[W]hy our Government would allow the political agenda in the first serious week back at work to be dominated by a zombie trade deal.  Why would Bill English, so early in the process of stamping his identity on the prime ministership, give all that air-time to reminding a large swathe of the population that he supports a deal that most New Zealanders had convinced themselves was not just a bad one, but a symbol of everything they think is going wrong with the world?

The TPPA is dead.  Let’s keep it that way.  It’s Our Future and Action Station have prepared a petition to Trade Minister Todd McClay reminding him that New Zealanders didn’t want the TPPA in the first place and that we will resist any half-baked zombie agreement, both in the streets and in the polling booth. 

One-on-one negotiations with the United States?
When Donald Trump pulled the US out of the TPPA, he also directed that the US :

[D]eal directly with individual countries on a one-on-one (or bilateral) basis in negotiating future trade deals … [and to enter into] wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.

Trump’s top trade advisor Peter Navarro has also been clear that he intends to maintain US influence in the Asia Pacific region by negotiating one-on-one trade agreements with the TPPA countries, mentioning New Zealand by name.

Over the last 30 years New Zealand has been a strong supporter of multilateral (big group) or plurilateral (small group) trade negotiations — the idea being that, as a small country, we have very little bargaining power and are better off working in a rules-based system alongside lots of other countries.  With so little to work with, a bilateral (one-on-one) trade agreement between New Zealand and the United States would be a disaster.  A bilateral trade agreement negotiated under the Trump administration would be worse still.  So far, Trump has hinted that a condition for any trade deals under his watch will require protections for the profits of big US Pharmaceutical companies (i.e. goodbye PHARMAC) and may include a clause allowing the US to pull out on 30 days notice if it thinks fit.
 
For now, at least, both Bill English and Trade Minister Todd McClay are skeptical about a one-on-one trade agreement with the US.  If these negotiations ever happen, New Zealanders will need to raise huge resistance like we did last February to stop what would surely be a bad deal.     

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or “RCEP” is an agreement being negotiated between the 10 ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.  Up to date information on RCEP can be found here at the excellent www.bilaterals.org website.

Prior to the death of the TPPA, RCEP was viewed as a competing trade agreement to shape trade in the Asia-Pacific region away from US influence and towards China.  With the US out of the TPPA, it is unknown whether the RCEP negotiations will speed up (to fill the void left by the TPPA) or go on the backburner (because there is no longer any need to compete against the TPPA).  The next RCEP negotiating round is scheduled to be in Japan in late February.  For now at least, there appears to be little chance of RCEP negotiations being concluded in the near future and no negotiating texts have yet been leaked.   

Interestingly, China and South Korea — two of the major powers in the the RCEP negotiations —have accepted invitations to attend the Chile ministerial meeting with the TPPA parties.  It is too early to draw any strong conclusions from this, but it would appear that there is at a least a possibility of future negotiations between the remaining TPPA countries and the RCEP grouping.

 An updated trade agreement with China
New Zealand and China have had a bilateral trade agreement in place since 2007.  In November last year, the government announced that it was negotiating an expansion of the agreement.  Earlier this month both Foreign Minister Murray McCully and Bill English met with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss: “the upgrade of the nations' bilateral free trade agreement, China's possible involvement in what remains of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and New Zealand's role in China's One Belt, One Road strategy”.  McCully announced afterwards that a series of negotiations would begin in the near future.  The scope and timeline of these negotiations are still under wraps.

Trade in Services Agreement
The Trade in Services Agreement (“TiSA”) is a proposed agreement to roll back regulation of international trade in services.  There are 23 countries involved in the negotiations, the most significant being the EU (who negotiate as a single bloc) and the US.

While TiSA is a narrower agreement than the TPPA (it doesn’t deal with border tariffs on goods and it doesn’t include some of the worst parts of the TPPA like Investor State Dispute Resolution) if it is agreed to, it will have a big effect on New Zealand’s ability both to regulate in the public interest and to support local organisations to provide service to the New Zealand public.

In a nutshell, the idea of TiSA is to make it easier for service providers (such banks, insurance companies, internet service provider, freight companies and healthcare providers) to sell their services to consumers in another country.  This would be done by stripping away regulations and other practices which get in the way of corporate profits.  This deregulation would then by locked in by the TiSA agreement so that future governments are bound to protect corporate interests rather than the public good.  One of the areas which TiSA would have a huge impact on is the regulation of financial services.  Weak regulation of banks, finance companies and insurers brought the global economy to its knees in the 2008 global financial crisis.  Now, after countless millions of public money has been spent bailing out corporations that were “too big to fail”, the same corporate interests are trying to lock in the same regulatory approach which led to the GFC.  TiSA would also have huge implications for the protection and storage of online data, which has led to strong opposition from privacy watchdogs, particulary in the EU.

A good summary of what TISA represents is available on the www.bilaterals.org website: Ten things you need to know about TiSA.  The most recent negotiating texts have also recently been leaked and there will be expert analysis available in the coming weeks.

TiSA was rumoured to be close to completion in late 2016.  However, with Trump coming into power it appears that no more negotiating rounds will be held until the new US position becomes clear.  The most recent leaks (above) also reveal that the negotiating countries are still a long way apart on some issues.

Future campaign for a progressive trade policy
With the immediate threat of the TPPA gone, we now have an opportunity to reframe the discussion around trade away from corporate greed, unlimited growth and ecological blindness towards a new economic system centred around the needs of ordinary people and environmental protection.

In the lead-up to the New Zealand Parliamentary election, It’s Our Future will be running a campaign pushing for future trade agreements which reflect a different and more progressive set of values than what we have experienced for the last 30 years.

We want to hear from you about what an alternative model for international trade could look like, and / or what values would underpin this.  Please send your ideas to itsourfuturenz@gmail.com.  We will share these ideas back in upcoming bulletins and use them to develop a set of campaign demands.

Other links
A lot of the same ground as this Bulletin is covered in Professor Jane Kelsey’s excellent blog entry from 5 February:  One year on from TPPA mass protests – how we can shape trade for the 99% not the 1%?

Former IOF co-ordinator Edward Miller has also written about his views about the death of the TPPA and what we can expect in the coming months and years: Why I’m Not Thrilled the TPPA Has Been Trumped

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this (very long) Bulletin, please don't forget to sign the Action Station petition against a zombie TPPA before the Chile ministeral meeting on 14-15 March.

Ngā mihi koutou, please get in touch at itsourfuturenz@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

Stephen Parry
It’s Our Future Coordinator
Itsourfuturenz@gmail.com
www.itsourfuture.org.nz   

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Don’t leave a toxic legacy –

give up on the TPPA


Joe Biden’s visit to New Zealand comes amongst desperate moves to try to rescue the deeply unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Citizens opposed to the TPPA will be at Auckland Airport today to call for an end to the TPPA.

Legacy: “doing an end run around democratic process?”
The TPPA was on the agenda for talks in Australia and is expected to be discussed in Auckland on Thursday. The TPPA is in deep trouble in the US, with both Presidential nominees recently affirming their rejection of the agreement.

There is overwhelming evidence that the TPPA will produce little if any economic benefit, cause social and environmental damage, and result in the loss of governments’ right to regulate. Yet, the current President is still talking about the TPPA as a key part of his legacy from 8 years in office.

The campaign against the TPPA in New Zealand, It’s Our Future, is calling for talks to be abandoned. Spokesperson Barry Coates said:

“The US President and Vice President should not be leaving a toxic legacy from their time in office.”

“People are waking up to the dangers of giving over powers to foreign corporations. The TPPA’s investor-state dispute settlement mechanism would allow foreign investors to challenge the decisions of our Parliament and our judicial system.”

“The recent TransCanada US$15 billion case against the US government’s rejection of the KeystoneXL pipeline shows how action on climate change will be further undermined by the TPPA.”


People are waking up to the dangers of giving over powers to foreign corporations
There is strong and growing opposition to the TPPA and similar pro-corporate treaties around the world, including huge opposition to the parallel Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations between the US and EU. A majority of the New Zealand public oppose the TPPA, according to opinion polls.

There is no chance to pass the TPPA in the US using the usual democratic processes, so the US administration is trying to push the TPPA through during the ‘lame duck period’ between the Presidential election on 8 November and the time the President takes office on 20 January 2017. As with the previous push for Fast Track Authority, the wheels will be oiled by lavish corporate contributions.

Barry Coates commented: “Doing an end run around democratic process to pass the TPPA is not a legacy that the Obama/Biden administration should be proud of. It’s time that governments – including the US and New Zealand – started listening to their people, not just the big corporations.”

It’s Our Future is calling for a halt to the ratification process in New Zealand, and if the TPPA is to continue, there should be a binding referendum on New Zealand’s participation.

It’s Our Future spokesperson Barry Coates concluded: “The world has moved on. The TPPA is a throwback to the era of extreme liberalisation, trickle-down, growth-at-all-costs policies. It has benefited big corporations and the wealthy few, and caused massive inequality, unstable economies, climate chaos and a hollowing out of democracy. It’s time to change direction.”


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A Critique of the Cullen-Reddy Intelligence  by Warren Thomson

A Marriage Made In Hell. What Would They Call It? The GCSIS? by Murray Horton

Waihopai Spy Base Protest 2016 by Murray Horton

Weapons Conference Campaign Moves To Auckland by Valerie Morse

Spooky Bits by Warren Thomson

Tackling Technocratic Militarism by Dennis Small

Reviews by Jeremy Agar
  • The Wikileaks Files
  • Eyes Of Fire: The Last Voyage Of The Rainbow Warrior, by David Robie

Obituary by Murray Horton
  • Jim Holdom


Larry Ross Memorial Plaque Unveiled in Christchurch by Murray Horton

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OVERSEAS INVESTMENT OFFICE REVIEW

What NZ Needs Is A Bouncer, Not A Doorman


The Government has announced an “independent review” of the Overseas Investment Office in the wake of its 2014 approval of the sale of Onetai Station to buyers who figure in the Panama Papers.

Once again the people in question were deemed to be of good character by the OIO, despite evidence to the contrary.

Any such review needs to look at considerably more than just this one approval.

Don’t take our word for it. To quote Martin van Beynen in the Press : “The tireless Murray Horton and Bill Rosenberg, at the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa, have been making lack of good character complaints to the OIO and its predecessor for nearly 20 years”.

This link to our Website takes you to the result of a keyword search for “good character”. Pages and pages and pages of articles we’ve written about different cases over many, many years.

And what is the common denominator to all our “good character” complaints – the OIO has never upheld any single one of them.

The reason is quite simple – the OIO sees its function as being that of a doorman (doormat would be more accurate), a facilitator of the transnational corporations and other foreign applicants. Definitely not an overseer, regulator or investigator.

This role has been delegated to the OIO by successive governments headed by both major parties throughout the 40+ years of its existence (first as the Overseas Investment Commission). It has fulfilled the role with exemplary enthusiasm: of the very few applications where Ministers have exercised their rights to make the final decision, the OIO has always argued for approval, even when the arguments for refusal are overwhelming. The most recent example of this was the Government’s 2015 refusal to allow a Chinese buyer to purchase Lochinver Station – the OIO wanted it approved.

The OIO is well past its use-by date.

CAFCA says the review needs to look at the following:

  • the OIO’s process for deciding whether an applicant is “of good character”;
  • exactly how the OIO substantiates an applicant’s claim that their application will be of economic benefit to New Zealand;
  • what OIO processes are in place for monitoring compliance with conditions imposed by the OIO and undertakings made by the applicant;
  • what OIO processes are in place for third-party (TP) interests, i.e. determining a TP interest, notification to TPs, receiving submissions from TPs, and keeping TPs informed, particularly after a Decision (approval) has been made;
  • OIO criteria for giving retrospective consent.

Let’s have a bouncer, not a doorman.

But the OIO is only part of the problem of NZ’s incredibly laissez faire foreign “investment” policy (which translates as “come on in and help yourselves”). The whole regime, not just the rubber stampers, needs an overhaul. And to be replaced by one which puts the interests of the New Zealand people first and foremost. 

When the Crafar Farms sale to Chinese buyers first became a major political issue several years ago, John Key said that he didn’t want to see New Zealanders “become tenants in our own country”. CAFCA very rarely agrees with anything Key says but we’re happy to quote him on that one. In the owner-tenant relationship, there is no doubt about who holds the upper hand. Ownership means political power. Foreign control means recolonisation, but by company this time, not country.

Well done, Mr Weldon!

First You Stuffed TV3

Then You Stuffed Yourself


It was one of those fascinating contradictions of capitalism that the foreign-owned TV3 always took its journalistic obligations more seriously than the State-owned TVNZ.

Sadly that didn’t, and couldn’t, last (which doesn’t imply any improvement in TVNZ; simply that TV3 sank to the same level).

And the man who did the sinking was the now ex-CEO Mark Weldon. He enthusiastically applied himself to the task of converting TV3 to a sewerage farm with a most impressive output of the old proverbial.

MediaWorks, the company which owns TV3 as part of its media empire, was one of the six finalists in the 2015 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand (the winner was announced on April 30th).  To quote from what we wrote when the finalists were announced, back in December 2015

“MediaWorks was another making its first appearance in the Roger Award, specifically for TV3 killing off Campbell Live. ‘The grounds for nomination are political interference, by killing off the only current affairs show anywhere on TV that actually took seriously its mission to be the voice of the people and to hold the powerful to account. And considering that TV3 replaced John Campbell with Rightwing mouthpiece Paul Henry, another ground for nomination is running an ideological crusade.

The New Zealand Herald article headline ‘Campbell’s Crusades Irked TV3 Bosses’  puts it in a nutshell. The article says that TV3 management considered that the show ‘over-emphasised charitable fundraising, and coverage of the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, GCSB spying and child poverty’ (as well as subjects like Pike River). There was plenty of evidence that not only did Campbell Live piss off TV management but also senior figures among the directors with close connections to the Government and the Prime Minister.



“To add insult to injury Campbell Live was, at first, replaced by yet another Australian police reality show, then by a cooking show. And MediaWorks has not stopped there in its relentless drive to kill off current affairs and any kind of serious news. More recently it has announced it is shutting down its newly created 3D current affairs show (which led to a fightback from its journalists). Me-diaWorks has moved in a heavy-handed fashion to extend the dumbing down of its programmes into the one remaining area (news and current affairs) that had previously stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the dismal crap produced by either major NZ network. It falls nicely into the playbook of capital’s inherent compulsion to provide a lowest common denominator market for advertisers”.

MediaWorks didn’t win the Roger Award (the Judges Report here) . It didn’t even get into the top three. That simply shows what fierce competition there is in the transnational corporate race to the bottom.

The Roger Award includes an Accomplice Award. But that is only for New Zealand organisations or institutions, not individuals. Otherwise, Mark Weldon would have been a very strong contender.
So now, the poopmeister has gone. And good riddance too, from both viewers and his long suffer-ing work force.

As a former Olympic swimmer Mark Weldon would be very familiar with the axiom “to sink or swim”. He has sunk, but it remains to be seen whether he has taken TV3 with him.

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